Jaycee Dugard’s memoir was an instant bestseller, and its teen appeal is obvious — Dugard was a teen for half of the time she was in captivity, and teens enjoy reading sensational, true stories. It is especially haunting that writing a bestselling book was on a list of goals she made while in captivity. Also interesting that A Stolen Life bears similarities to Emma Donoghue’s Room.
Most readers, including critics, seem to come away from the book genuinely impressed by Dugard’s ability to survive and rebound from her experiences. Dugard established the JAYC Foundation to help the families impacted by abduction, and just yesterday she was in the news again for filing a law suit against the federal government. Phillip Garrido, her abductor, was on federal parole for 8 years of her captivity. Any funds she might win in the suit would go to the foundation.
Adult/High School–Teens who have read about the girl who was kidnapped at age 11 and held captive for 18 years will be anxious to read this book. Written, as Dugard says, “in my own words, in my own way, exactly how I remember it,” the book provides details of her experiences. While it might not be as explicit as teens hoped, they won’t be disappointed: what is and isn’t revealed is thought-provoking. She discusses her past of being forced to hide in public to protect her abusers and her current need to hide to protect her children from media attention. Photocopied journal entries and lists are included along with grainy photographs. Many of the lists are like any teen’s and would be boring except for the context. For example, #1 on “Dreams for the Future” is “See Mom.” A list entitled “Affirmations” begins “1. Only I can make it happen. 2. I control what I eat. 3. Every day I become the person I want to be.” It’s disturbing to see how many encounters her kidnappers had with authorities and how long it took them to find her even with the entire “family” walking into a parole office. Some of the most interesting chapters of the book are at the end: Dugard’s rescue, reunification, and “free” life, and the huge burst of freedom and fear that brings. While other books explore the abuse and captivity, Dave Peltzer’s A Child Called It (HCI, 1995), Emma Donoghue’s Room (Little Brown, 2010), and Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl (Simon Pulse, 2008) to name a few, Dugard’s memoir is refreshingly innocent, kind, unsensational.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA